After clicking on the map above, make sure you check only “Change layer” on the left to see the differences from the new floodplain designations.

Green will become the favorite color for thousands of New Orleans property owners when the new FEMA flood maps finally become official at the end of the month.

That’s because green is the code for areas that will move out of flood zones and into areas with no insurance requirements – and the new map shows it washing over large sections of the city.

The maps were released for comment in 2009, but the city appealed several times, claiming the airborne radar system used to determine elevations had made errors, and that FEMA had not considered improvements made to levees and drainage systems. It won both appeals, resulting in improvements to the maps.

“Green indicates flood zones in the city that are now going to be ‘X’ zones – areas where flood insurance will now be an option instead of requirement for most mortgages,” said Jared Munster, the city’s director of Safety and Permits.

“If you have a federally subsidized mortgage in the ‘A’ zone, you are still required to have flood insurance. And, of course, we always advise property owners to have insurance.”

FEMA representative Terri Romine-Ortega said insurance rates would not be affected until the close of six-month adoption period that starts in April.

“So, the effective revised flood maps for Orleans Parish could go into effect this fall,” Romine-Ortega said. “If a property is in an area with less risk than before, a property owner with an existing flood insurance policy should contact their insurance agent to get their policy re-written at the lower rate.”

Property owners now can quickly determine if their rates have changed by going to

After clicking on “I Agree” in the disclaimer window, move to the left side of the page and make sure only the “Change Layer” box is clicked.

The map will then show the city in three basic colors: Green – the good news color; grey, meaning no change from the previous map, and red – indicating areas moving into higher insurance rates.

There is very little red on the map. And Munster said the city’s check of properties in those areas show most already are elevated enough to qualify for insurance.

FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Program which helps make development possible by using federal funds to subsidize insurance. But in order to qualify for the program, communities must comply with FEMA floodplain management regulations.

The flood maps determine a property’s relationship to the established base-flood elevation of that area. Generally the insurance rates drop if a property is above that level and increase for properties below it.

“The flood elevation is based on the statistical probability of pooling of water during a 100-year storm,” Munster said.  “FEMA’s consultants look at storm modeling along with the topography of the area, drainage patterns and capacity and levee protection in determining the appropriate flood zone designation.”

The map shows three basic zones, he said:

  • Zone X, essentially meaning no flooding should occur with a 100-year storm.
  • Zone A, are flood zone areas.
  • Zone V are areas outside of levee protection which would be exposed to coastal flooding.

“Within the A and V zones, there are required elevations which are intended to place development above the highest projected water level,” Munster said.

FEMA’s official release of the map — called the “letter of final determination” — will end almost seven years of appeals by the city that will result in significantly lower rates for most of the city, even while it kept higher rates in place.

Bob Marshall

From 2013 to 2017, Bob Marshall covered environmental issues for The Lens, with a special focus on coastal restoration and wetlands. While at The Times-Picayune, his work chronicling the people, stories...